Keeping My Knives Sharp

KEEPING MY KNIVES SHARP: Why it matters so much to me.

This post will cover why metaphorically I liken blade maintenance to my blog or any endeavor. I throw in some links/resources along with photos of the last time I brought out my Japanese whetstones and went to work.

This is something that I truly enjoy and am adamant about. I cook, and sharp knives are essential. Without sharp knives you put yourself, and whatever product you’re working with in danger. All knives become dull after prolonged use, even by professionals with a respect for the blade, unless perpetual care is taken to avoid dullness. Novices in knife skills will be much more adept at cutting then sharpening or honing; even mid level professionals with adequate to above average knife skills have often times no clue how to take care of their knife and keep it sharp. I’m overly emphasizing one word so far keep/keeping. This is because like with other habits you need to continue or maintain it to notice benefits. Take this blog for instance (but this can very much be applied to any skill, habit or area of my or your lives). If this blog was a knife it may not be dull, since I’ve only published 5 posts and have not nearly put it to good use. But, does that mean that it doesn’t need to be cared for, analyzed, improved? I certainly haven’t been keeping up with it—and if I don’t hone/sharpen my blogging skills this will not be an effective tool going forward. So, I should put a vested effort into habitualizing blogging, just as I have with maintaining the edge on my blades.

At my last position in a high standard, fine dining kitchen I made the habit of maintaining my blades every day. At the end of service, I always (every single shift in over a year and a half) honed my knives. There are many reasons for this but primarily it’s simple: stay ready. No matter how intensely bad, good, or just straight up intense a shift was I disciplined myself to take care of my tools. There was a calming/zen aspect too that’s on the intangible side.

Now I’m waiting for another culinary project to get underway, but still use some of my knives regularly and aim to maintain and improve sharpness so that I’m ready to step into any kitchen and perform at a high level. That’s Mise En Place, the state of readiness. But, that’s another upcoming blog post in and of itself.

The actual skill of sharpening knives on Japanese Whetstones is something that I haven’t fully mastered. That makes it enjoyable, that I’m still in the raw learning stages where improvement is highly visible. These two videos help me and I often refer back to them to verify my technique. Bob Kramer and this Video from Global Knives

These are the knives I worked on most recently, and my stones. I like to work on a couple of the household knives as well as mine that get industrial use, because surprisingly the household ones are more dull and more of a challenge. [Notice the smaller stone: used to ensure a flat surface prior to running the knife on the stone.]

The two knives on the left are household knives (soo dull!) and the rest are knives from my professional collection.

The two knives on the left are household knives (soo dull!) and the rest are knives from my professional collection.

My Stones and Steel. (R-L) A  smallstone to ensure the surfaces of other stones are flat/uniform. 5000/1000 grit whetstone. 1000/250 grit whetstone. Ceramic Steel.

My Stones and Steel. (R-L) A small stone to ensure the surfaces of other stones are flat/uniform. 5000/1000 grit whetstone. 1000/250 grit whetstone. Ceramic Steel.

Upcoming I’ll do more of a how to with some videos that I produce, but that’s in the near future.

This quote from Daniel Boulud (one of the Best Chefs in America) from his book Letters to a Young Chef—specifically the 10 commandments of a chef (for the rest click here) is a good closing remark.

“1. Keep Your Knives sharp
Your most basic tool is your knife. To cut well, all of your knives must be sharp. Make sharpening a daily ritual at the very least. A knife is not like a car that breaks down. If it does not perform, you have not kept it sharp. Remember, it is never the knife’s fault.”

Thank you for reading, and please leave any feedback or questions for me.

B

Resuming Discipline

RESUMING DISCIPLINE

It’s been a long time since I’ve made room in my life for this blog. Clearly I have a lot of varied interests and that can have both good and bad consequences. An example of a bad consequence is time utilization issues. Being disciplined enough with my time to fit continual blogging into my schedule is an adjustment I haven’t fully made yet, but progress is again underway. That is a certainty. I’m realizing that many desires can lead to many distractions. Managing or rather utilizing time to maximize my success in many fields is an ongoing endeavor, and everything is based on decisions. . Creating, and maintaining beneficial habits while eliminating the bad, or just unproductive habits that don’t align with my ultimate goals and ambitions: that’s what I’m working on mostly at the moment. A great tool that I’ve used for the better part of 2013 is a website and app called Lift. Check it out here

A few things I love about Lift are:

  • The data I can see and utilize for self-accountability. In simplicity I can see visually how I’m doing in many fields and where progress or consistencies lie and therefore where stagnation and inconsistency can be found.
  • I can create new habits and pioneer new paths for others to see and join. I can create a habit for anything, and I’ve currently got over 60. Moving forward I can create habits and hold myself accountable while building data and analyzing the effects of my decisions on my goals and ambitions in any area.

I’m becoming part of the Quantified Self movement. Recently I’ve begun tracking my sleep, activity, diet and workouts through a cool and convenient device…the Jawbone UP band. The data I’m getting from consistently using Lift and the UP band is helping me make better decisions.

I’ll be publicizing more data at the end of the year and doing a 52 item gratitude post from this year as the year wraps up in the next few months.

I’m also getting involved in a couple other projects and am still maintaining a few part time jobs presently. So I’m going to be “busy” but aim to maintain overall productivity and stop avoiding the important. I know the most important things that I should be doing and just need to execute. Self-discipline and delaying gratification are two of my motivators as I move on to my next post…a discipline in and of itself—keeping my knives sharp.

Cheat Day Brunch

Sunday brunch. Cheat day. What can two great friends, and good cooks create? Can healthy foods taste so good they feel like they belong in the wallowing gluttony of a cheat meal? That’s what I wanted to find out.

“Everyone binges eventually on a diet, and it’s better to schedule it ahead of time to limit the damage.”—Tim Ferriss

“Your nutritionist might call it a strategic overfeed ‘cause they like to act all fancy, but colloquially, this is known as a cheat day.” —Romanello/Bornstein

cheatdaybrunchkara2

The table we dined at

This post is about decadence, and indulgence; a morning of structured cheating on my dietary program. But, I’ve also got a healthy recipe included. Yes, I aim to moderate and include healthy foods, even on cheat day. Recently I’ve begun eating in a more structured way, (intermittent fasting, eliminating certain foods, overall balance) and the inclusion of a cheat day is something I’m augmenting my diet with. The more structured and healthier I eat, the more I find myself able to resist overindulgence (a vice I’m slowly conquering), even when it’s allowed and condoned.

I chose to align the day that I can eat anything with my passion for food and cooking. I invited a fellow cook over to partake in a Sunday brunch. There’s something special about working with someone like minded in the kitchen. Not just like minded in a sense of ideas (although many align), but likeminded in attitude of professionalism, knowledge, improvement, and dedication to the craft. There’s only a handful of people like this that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or working with in my career, so I thoroughly enjoy each and every opportunity to do so.

No menu was structured in advance. Other then knowing we’d be cooking bacon, it was basically a clean slate. Dishes were to be made using what I had on hand and a small purchase of some seasonal fruit, and eggs the night before. Bacon. What else? I’ve got fruit, I’ll make a parfait. How about a salad? Let’s do pancakes!? Given a choice between pancakes and waffles, I’d go waffles all the way, and so that’s what we did. Not your average waffles mind you, these were jam packed with nutrition and probably one of the healthiest waffle batters out there. Although it was cheat day and I could basically  have my way with food, I still don’t like or feel the need to blatantly aim for un-nutritious food.

Health Waffles:

Batter recipe as follows, this is also a good pancake batter. (Dietary restrictions could easily be adapted, some shown in parentheses):

Makes approximately 16 waffles (4”x4”)

Ingredients: (A side note: best when baking to have ingredients at room temperature to help the mixing process, so all of the milk, eggs, etc was at room temp)

1.5 Cups Buttermilk

1.5 Cups Whole Milk

4 Whole Large Eggs

4 TBSP Clarified Butter, Melted (could be coconut oil)

1.5 Cups Whole Wheat Flour

1.5 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 TBSP Sugar (or Agave Nectar)

2 TBSP Baking Powder

4 TBSP Ground Flax Seed

4 TBSP Flaked Quinoa

1 TBSP Wheat Germ

2 TBSP Lemon Zest

Dash of Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

Procedure:

1. Measure and organize all ingredients.

2. Combine all dry ingredients in large mixing bowl

3. Make batter by gradually adding eggs, dairy and remaining liquid ingredients and whisking/stirring until the mixture is uniform and no clumps remain.

4. Allow batter to rest for at least 30 minutes(we did this partly by accident, but attribute this to helping with the nice finished texture), room temperature is fine, but if longer then 30 minutes refrigerate.

5. Heat waffle iron, and cook waffles in batches. Holding in a low oven (around 190°F) until enough have been cooked to serve all guests. Batter can be kept for an additional day under refrigeration (or made ahead of time).

IMG_1322

Waffles with two syrups…left is the peach…right is the cherry.

To accompany the waffles we made two syrups. A white peach, bacon, maple syrup—with a little butter. And a fresh cherry syrup. Recipes for those are available upon request. We made copious amounts of applewood and maple smoked bacon. I added a sunny side up egg, for protein and even more of a brunch-ey feel. We also created a salad; baby kale, swiss chard, avocado, peccorino cheese, and a shallot vinaigrette. Lastly, I crafted a parfait. Bananas, pluots, some cherries from the syrup, organic vanilla yogurt, fresh mint, and home made granola (molasses, oats, chia seeds, flax, quinoa, dried cherries, Turkish apricots).

Baconfait

When I added bacon to my parfait

Board

This was part of the mise en place (post on this to come) for my parfait… notice the coffee…key.

Part way through the meal I decided to add bacon to my parfait (see photo) and it was awesome, I also added bacon to the salad and it was equally awesome. Bacon is awesome. Cheat day is awesome. Even when it’s on the healthier side.

This is more than likely going to happen again… anything you’d like to see me cook?

Love to hear what you think, and suggestions in the comments.

Where I stand in 2013

This post is basically an inventory and brief summary of where I stand in each category of achievement that’s requisite to achieving my own version of success.

Every so often it’s good to take a step back, analyze progress (or stagnation), and make adjustments.

Learning Languages:

Japanese:

– Read hiragana and katakana but writing needs work

-An ear for pronunciation

-Limited vocabulary

Spanish:

-Decent pronunciation

-Kitchen Vocabulary

-Bad words

-Sounding out reading, but lack comprehension

French:

-Conjugating regular verbs

-Ear for pronunciation/conversation

-Latent vocabulary & reading/writing from high-school.

Business(es):

-I have some great start-up ideas swirling around.  I’m very confident in 3/10 of the ideas, but have yet to take any action towards launch or lean launch.

-Potential for a pop-up restaurant is high. I have a good network within the hospitality industry, and the market is prime for a great pop up.

-My dreams of film/TV production are simply dreams right now.

-Using apps and technology to automate income is similar to my start-up ideas; no action has been taken towards realization other then capturing ideas on paper. I’ve got one rock solid idea though, and about 8 mediocre ones.

-Developing a school would be a legacy project, and I’ve yet to build the requisite resources or fully master many teachable skills.

Health and Fitness:

-The quest for the six-pack is ongoing. Starting to lean out and loose the last 5% body fat that it takes. (for progress shots see my Instagram)

-Personal trainer certification is a goal for the next 90 days. Studying between 4-10 hours a week.

-Healthy eating is becoming a passion. making better choices and structuring a diet based on nutritional benefit and balance is something I study between 5-10 hours a week.

-Yoga has helped me immensely since I started 2 years ago. I’m still not as flexible as I’m striving for, but quite an improvement. Always end my training sessions with yoga/stretching.

Martial Arts:

-Reached a meager yellow belt in Judo at age 13, but have not practiced since.

-Starting from scratch in this field.

Music:

-Played trumpet for 2 years in junior high.

-Messed around with DJ/production software: Reason, Traktor.

Food:

-Started cooking at a young age— starting with eggs at age 8.

-Immersed in the hospitality industry my whole life up this point and presently.

-Apprenticed and worked under one of the best chefs in my city, and a crew of renowned sous-chefs, for a year and a half. The restaurant made #3 on a list of Best New Restaurants in Texas.

-Studying techniques, recipes, and ingredients from a wide variety of sources.

-Shifting focus recently to nutrient dense, and maximally healthy dishes/ingredients, while still maintaining flavor development.

-Achieved a good flow while cooking on the line, loved to improve this day in day out.

Love:

-I’ve been in love once, maybe twice.

-Quite a bit to do and accomplish in this area.

Travel:

-I have traveled internationally 3 times: United Kingdom (age 8), Mexico (age 18), and Japan (age 24). Within North America, I’ve seen a good deal of western Canada, parts of the southern United States and Texas …far from well traveled, but I’ve traveled enough to give me the “travel bug”.

-I have only lived abroad once, and that’s my current 3+year stint in Texas.

Learning Wealth:

-Studying Napoleon Hill, Rhonda Byrne, Darren Hardy and others.

-Recently had the most money I’d ever had at one time.

-Make small donations monthly to 2 organizations through my job.

Driving:

-Driven some wonderful vehicles.

-Racing and drifting have not been attempted or learned.

-Drive often presently, so skill is improving.

Art:

-Appreciating art in all its forms more and more as I age.

-Haven’t created any art since high school art class, and that was hardly considerable.

Properties/Homes:

-Currently own no properties.

Teaching/Helping/Giving Back:

-I’m acquiring more skills and knowledge in order to better teach people in the future.

-Set an example of good work ethic in jobs that I’ve had in my career, but working smarter is ongoing.

Agriculture:

-I’ve planed 4 trees.

-I have an aloe plant

-Starting to grow Chia.

As you can see from this inventory, I’ve got a long way to go in almost everything. This doesn’t deter me, nor should it deter anybody who sets out to achieve anything. I’d rather take the time to assess where I am, so that I can always look back as I progress and reach benchmarks. As opposed to saying “there’s too much work to be done” I say “here’s a way to measure my work against something. Everybody starts somewhere…

Started from the bottom…–Drake

Moving forward I’ll be detailing posts in each of these categories as I learn and experience new things, but also delve into what I’ve learned in the past in more detail.

Thanks for reading, and leave me any comments you have.